Former prosecutor surrenders in ticket-fixing case
Posted April 1, 2009
Updated April 2, 2009
Smithfield, N.C. — A former Johnston County prosecutor implicated in a ticket-fixing scheme surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning.
Cyndi Jaeger declined to comment as she entered the Johnston County Courthouse.
Jaeger was indicted Monday on three felony counts for obstruction of justice and two misdemeanor counts for failing to perform duty of office. Former court clerk Portia Snead and four defense attorneys – Chad Lee, Lee Hatch, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb – also were indicted in the case and surrendered Tuesday.
Jaeger signed 70 dismissal forms, which defense attorneys used after she left the Johnston County District Attorney's Office in September 2007 to illegally drop charges in drunken-driving and other traffic cases, according to the indictments.
Jaeger's attorney, David Freedman, declined to confirm the allegations against her but said she had no criminal intent in the case.
"If anything was done, it was done with the intention of things being done properly, not improperly," Freedman said. "If (dismissal forms) were used improperly, they were not used improperly by her."
District Attorney Susan Doyle asked the State Bureau of Investigation a year ago to look into the high rate of dismissed drunken-driving cases in the county. A WRAL investigation found that 46 percent of the driving while impaired charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with 21 percent statewide and 20 percent in neighboring Wake County.
Doyle said a tracking system installed in October 2007 found several discrepancies in cases that were scheduled for trial but had been dismissed months earlier.
"Further inquiry revealed that the former assistant district attorney dismissed an alarming number of driving while impaired cases by utilizing an inappropriate dismissal form and by not stating the reasons for the dismissal orally in open court as required by law," Doyle said in a statement issued Monday.
A 2006 state law requires specific information be listed on dismissal sheets in DWI cases, including the driver's alcohol concentration, any other pending impairment charges and an explanation for the dismissal, said Kimberly Overton, chief resource prosecutor for the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. A copy of the dismissal is supposed to be sent to the district attorney and the head of the law enforcement agency that brought the charge, she said.
Dismissals aren't required to be announced in open court, however, Overton said.
Jaeger, who left her job as an assistant district attorney in Randolph County last Wednesday, faces 81 additional misdemeanor charges for failing to perform duty of office, which a grand jury is expected to take up on May 4.